Connecticut activists gather to prevent a climate crime

It was a crime scene we have become all too familiar with in 2015. Yellow police tape encircled the area of the dastardly deed. People milled about somewhat dazed but also angry. Media scurried after them. But there was a critical difference. It was a gathering to prevent a climate crime.

The picture drawn above happened in Naugatuck, Connecticut on Sat., January 10, 2015. The main participants were leaders of the Naugatuck Environmental Network. It was a press conference. They were indeed angry but also determined to prevent a proposed climate crime by Competitive Power Ventures (CPV), a company stationed regionally in Massachusetts and whose financial backing has an international reach.  CPV’s objective was to build yet another dirty fuel energy plant powered by methane gas, a polluting, climate-changing fossil fuel.

What these CPV multimillionaires want, in part, are the waters of the Naugatuck River that ran swiftly in back of the activists. These waters swept alongside metal, chemical, and rubber industries during the 20th century. The river was so polluted that it was declared dead by the 1970s. Dedicated environmental and political work saw it spring back to life by the 21st century with work still to be done. Now CPV was looking again to use the river as a free dump for some mysterious grey water effluent.

The coupon clippers behind this proposed climate crime are Warbug Pinkus, an American Venture Capital private equity investment firm, with Indian, Asian, and Brazilian hedge fund big bucks. If you are looking for an example of globalized financialization, this is it. You can rest assured these ruling class elements don’t have their families living anywhere near these fossil fuel polluting machines.

Paraphrasing the press statement of the Naugatuck Environmental Network, CPV’s favorite words are “clean, natural and bridge.” They explained the smoke screen behind these words.

“Just how ‘clean’ will this proposed energy plant be? Nitrous oxides will be spewed from its smoke stacks. Those chemicals are associated with birth abnormalities, depressed blood cell formation, and kidney and liver diseases. Nitrogen dioxide is linked to airway inflammation and aggravates symptoms of asthmatics. That’s just for starters.

Fine particles, about 1/30 the width of human hair, are also a byproduct. These microscopic, soot-like particles make their way from our lungs to the circulatory system and to all parts of our bodies. While science doesn’t know the source of many cancers, these pollutants are prime suspects. A recent Harvard 12-year study concluded that there is a direct link between power plant particulate exposure in third trimester pregnant women and children being born with autism.

Oil will be used to back up gas usage. Sulfur dioxide then will emerge out of those ‘clean’ stacks. It causes respiratory problems especially in children and the elderly. Sulfur dioxide is an acid. Globally, it is in the mix of those chemicals that are killing coral reefs.

Gas is ‘natural’ all right. So is arsenic. CPV would have us believe using ‘natural’ gas is akin to eating an organic apple. Fracking is what has led to the “natural” gas boom. It involves shooting water and chemicals under high pressure deep into the earth. It leads to 30 percent more emissions of methane gas than conventional extractive methods.

Methane gas traps the sun’s energy in our atmosphere at a rate 34 times more effectively than carbon dioxide. It is a climate change multiplier. Ninety seven percent of climatologists recognize the reality of climate change. People impacted by the extra violent super storms like Katrina and Sandy know first hand. 

The idea that gas is a “bridge” to a renewable future is a mirage put forward by fossil fuel companies. Why? So they can keep on drilling for this dirty fossil fuel and keep their big-time shareholders happy. Of course the pollution continues.

The water for this dirty fuel power plant endangers the water level of the Pomperaug River. The proposal threatens the Naugatuck River with pollutants, and puts the wildlife of both at risk.

Anyone going for this scheme would have to be a shareholder in fossil fuels, befuddled by the ‘bridge’ to renewables line or a climate change denier.  Power plants make up 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the U.S.  and there are no federal limits on how much carbon existing power plants can dump into our air. Translation – dump on our families, our rivers, and our atmosphere at will, while this hedge fund rakes in the profits.

So ‘clean’, ‘natural’ and ‘bridge’ can be wrapped up with an apology to an old song. Fairy tales can come true and it can happen to you, if you are gullible enough.”

Activists urged participation in the Jan. 15 mass mobilization at Oxford High School where Connecticut’s sitting council will be holding hearings on this dirty fuel proposal.

Photo: Members of four environmental groups hold a press conference by the Naugatuck River, Naugatuck, CT protesting a proposed climate crime – the building of a dirty fossil fuel power plant in Oxford, CT.


Len Yannielli
Len Yannielli

Long time environmental activist Len Yannielli was a professor of biological science at Naugatuck Valley Community College, Waterbury, Conn.